For the first time in his NFL career, Patrick Mahomes is prepping for an NFL season without the services of Tyreek Hill. After six Pro Bowl seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, the speedster is now catching passes from Tua Tagavailoa with the Miami Dolphins.
While there are few receivers in the NFL quite like Hill, the Chiefs did a solid job getting their MVP quarterback a few new weapons to group with Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman.
They brought in Juju Smith-Schuster, a former Pro Bowler who spent the first five years of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught passes from Aaron Rodgers the first four years of his pro career with the Green Bay Packers.
And it’s the latter who caught our attention over the weekend as the Chiefs kicked off the preseason on a sloppy Soldier Field surface against the Chicago Bears.
One play proved Marquez Valdes-Scantling is ready to play with Patrick Mahomes
While Mahomes didn’t play but a single series against the Bears, the four-time Pro Bowler was in midseason form, completing six of seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Part of the beauty of his lone drive was that his six completions were to six different receivers, which could be more common this season in Hill’s absence.
One of those completions was to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, which only shows up in the box score as a simple 11-yard grab. But there was more to it than that.
With the Chiefs facing 3rd & 8 on Chicago’s 21-yard line, Valdes-Scantling lined up in the slot. As the ball was snapped, the Bears dropped into zone coverage, and defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson essentially cut off the former Packer’s short hook route over the middle, taking away Mahomes’ initial option.
As he does, Mahomes shuffled to his right, and Houston-Carlson began to follow. Instantly sensing what was about to happen, Valdes-Scantling didn’t.
Instead of following his quarterback, which many receivers would, he saw the opening and cut back to the middle, and Mahomes found him to move the chains. Two plays later, the Chiefs were in the end zone as Mahomes hit Blake Bell for a five-yard score. Again, it might not seem like much, but it was quite telling.
A big part of Patrick Mahomes’ game is improvisation. And it’s essential for those who catch passes from him to stay on their toes. During the 2021 season, I talked with Travis Kelce on this very subject, and we had a nice laugh about him telling his quarterback how he’ll constantly “make some s*** up” at the line. And Mahomes will somehow just know exactly what he’s going to do.
Valdez-Scantling said after his first game in a Chiefs uniform that he’s also been talking to Kelce about this — as often as he can, in fact. When asked specifically about the play mentioned above, the Florida native said, “I found an opening, and he [Mahomes] found me.”
Mahomes acknowledged his new weapon already being comfortable with his improv style, saying Valdez-Scantling’s experience with Rodgers should make for an “easy transition.”
Sure, this was just one play in a meaningless preseason game. But the fact that Patrick Mahomes and Marquez Valdez-Scantling are already on the same page is nothing but a positive sign for the Chiefs as they enter this new era.